Anna Elisabeth Howard writes highly caffeinated takes on shalom as a lens for everything from her front porch in Hendersonville, TN where she lives with her husband and two sons and a small menagerie of critters. She is a community organizer and movement chaplain with a background in youth and family ministry and is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary. An avid hiker and backpacker, many thoughts start somewhere in the middle of the woods, or under a waterfall.
She is the author of Inward Apocalypse: Uncovering a Faith for the Common Good Published by Resource Publications (Wipf and Stock), August 2022.
From the back cover: “I wish I could still believe in God, but I can’t be a Christian anymore because of ______” Fill-in-the-blank with racism, misogyny, homophobia, toxic capitalism, and so on. I’ve had this conversation with different people almost word-for-word over and over. White American Christianity has so defined God that many people cannot separate God from the toxic theology they were taught.
But this isn’t the God I see in the Bible. The Bible shows us a God meeting people where they are and nudging them towards justice and total thriving for all: shalom. The Bible details arcs of justice and societal reform. If we understand how radical those arcs were in the context of the day, we can extend them forward into the future and figure out how to work for justice, total thriving, and societal reformation in our day.
I grew up in that first world view. Come along, and I’ll tell you the story of how I escaped, and I’ll show you a theology that I believe paints a more accurate picture: a faith for the common good where everyone thrives and no one is left out.
For more information and too see what people are saying about Inward Apocalypse, visit the full book page here.
Find other recent writing on Earth and Altar, Red Letter Christians, and via her newsletter on Substack.
What is Shalom?
Shalom is an idea that has thoroughly gripped my imagination over the past few years. Often mistranslated as a simple “peace,” shalom goes far beyond this especially as “peace” is often translated as merely an “absence of conflict.” This is in reality, not peace at all, as it only benefits those already in power and prevents their lives and holding of that power from being disruptive.
Shalom means total thriving and well-being for everyone. If you think about it, achieving this “peace” will be very disruptive to those in authority, those in power, as this peace cannot rest until everyone is thriving whole-heartedly. Because when “the least of these” is thriving, all of us will be thriving. Shalom is a kingdom of God peace, a way of putting feet to when we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”